Former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav maintained his innocence Wednesday, the day of his court summons to begin a seven-year sentence. Israel is “burying a man alive,” the former president said in a statement. “Today ends a bloody struggle with rage and frustration,” Katsav told a crowd of reporters outside his Kiryat Malachi home. “Anybody who knows me will say the accusations are false. Today, in Israel, a man is executed.”
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The former president said that “one day the truth will be uncovered.”
“I don’t know when, if it will be with you or without you, with me or without me,” he told reporters. “This country is sending a grandfather of grandchildren – a president of his country – to jail.”
Katsav insisted that he “never hurt anyone,” adding that in “five and a half years I have not seen mercy.”
“I do not ask for sympathy,” he said. “But I request that my entire appeal be read. In it is my testimony. There, you can find my acquittal.”
The disgraced president then departed his Kiryat Malachi home, leaving his wife and family behind, and made his way to the minimal security prison named after an Israelite guard who protected the First Temple.
Katsav was unanimously convicted in the Tel Aviv District Court a year ago of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice. The Supreme Court upheld the Tel Aviv court’s sentence following an appeal by the former president’s defense.
He will be placed in the religious wing of the prison, and will share a cell with ex-government minister Shlomo Benizri of Shas – a move Prisons Service staff say will ease the shock from the sudden change of environment.
A warden will be assigned exclusively to the ex-president to ensure he does not attempt suicide, Prisons Service chief Aharon Franco said on Tuesday during a Knesset hearing.
Katsav, who turned 65 on Monday, will be allowed to wear his own clothes behind bars, though he will have to don Prisons Service uniform during court appearances, should he make future appeals.
The religious wing houses 72 prisoners, is free of televisions, and inmates spend most of their time in two seminaries studying Torah.
The inmates also routinely meet with social workers as part of a rehabilitation program.